We need to raise £10,000 from user donations to get our finances in balance. More >>>

Follow Us:


Malus sylvestris - Mill.

Common Name Crab Apple, European crab apple
Family Rosaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards All members of this genus contain the toxin hydrogen cyanide in their seeds and possibly also in their leaves, but not in their fruits. Hydrogen cyanide is the substance that gives almonds their characteristic taste but it should only be consumed in very small quantities. Apple seeds do not normally contain very high quantities of hydrogen cyanide but, even so, should not be consumed in very large quantities. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.
Habitats Woods, scrub and hedges, especially in oak woods, on neutral to calcareous soils[9, 17, 200].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, Greece and S.W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Malus sylvestris Crab Apple, European crab apple

Malus sylvestris Crab Apple, European crab apple


Translate this page:

You can translate the content of this page by selecting a language in the select box.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Malus sylvestris is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft 10in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.


M. acerba. M. communis sylvestris. Pyrus malus.


Woodland Garden Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit;  Oil.
Edible Uses: Oil;  Pectin;  Pectin;  Tea.

Fruit - raw or cooked[9, 15]. Used for jellies, preserves and juices[183]. The flavour improves considerably if the fruit is not harvested until it has been frosted[12]. The fruit is quite variable in size (it is about 2 - 4cm in diameter[200]) and quality. Whilst usually harsh and acid, some forms are quite sweet and can be eaten out of hand[K]. The fruit is rich in pectin and can be used in helping other fruits to set when making jam etc[61, 142]. Pectin is also said to protect the body against radiation[201]. An edible oil can be obtained from the seed[4]. It would only really be viable to use these seeds as an oil source if the fruit was being used for some purpose such as making cider and then the seeds could be extracted from the remaining pulp[K]. A very pleasant tea can be made from the leaves[7].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Anthelmintic;  Antibacterial;  Astringent;  Hypnotic;  Laxative;  Refrigerant.

The fruit is astringent and laxative[4, 9]. The crushed fruit pulp can be used as a poultice to heal inflammations or small flesh wounds[7]. The fruit is eaten to obviate constipation[240]. The bark, and especially the root bark, is anthelmintic, refrigerant and soporific[218, 240]. An infusion is used in the treatment of intermittent, remittent and bilious fevers[4, 240]. The leaves contain up to 2.4% of an antibacterial substance called 'florin'[240]. This inhibits the growth of a number of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria in as low a concentration as 30 ppm[240].

Other Uses

Dye;  Fuel;  Oil;  Pectin;  Pectin.

The fruit is a source of pectin[61, 142]. Pectin is used as a thickener in jams etc and as a culture medium in laboratories. A red to yellow dye is obtained from the bark[257]. The wood is an excellent fuel[67].

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in most fertile soils, including heavy ones, preferring a moisture retentive well-drained loamy soil[1, 98, 200]. Prefers a sunny position but succeeds in partial shade though it fruits less well in such a situation[186, 200]. Fairly tolerant of cutting, it succeeds in a mixed hedgerow[186]. A parent of the cultivated apple[11], it is often used as a rootstock[50]. The fruit is a good wildlife food source, especially for birds[200]. The plant has over 90 associated insect species[24]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus[200]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200].


The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

Shop Now


Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It usually germinates in late winter. Stored seed requires stratification for 3 months at 1°c and should be sown in a cold frame as soon as it is received[200]. It might not germinate for 12 months or more. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. If given a rich compost they usually grow away quickly and can be large enough to plant out in late summer, though consider giving them some protection from the cold in their first winter. Otherwise, keep them in pots in a cold frame and plant them out in late spring of the following year. Cuttings of mature wood, November in a frame[11].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Malus angustifoliaSouthern Crab, Southern crab apple20
Malus baccataChinese Crab, Siberian crab apple21
Malus baccata mandschuricaManchurian Apple40
Malus bracteata 20
Malus brevipes 20
Malus coronariaGarland Crab, Sweet crab apple31
Malus domesticaApple52
Malus florentinaHawthorn-leaf crab apple20
Malus floribundaJapanese Crab, Japanese flowering crab apple30
Malus fuscaOregon Crab, Oregon crab apple32
Malus glabrata 20
Malus glaucescens 20
Malus hallianaHall crab apple20
Malus halliana spontanea 20
Malus hupehensisChinese Crab, Chinese crab apple, Tea Crabapple, Flowering Tea Crabapple20
Malus ioensisPrairie Crab, Prairie crab apple, Texas crab apple, Prairie Crabapple20
Malus ioensis palmeriPrairie Crab20
Malus kansuensis 20
Malus lancifolia 20
Malus praecox 20
Malus prattiiPratt apple20
Malus prunifoliaChinese Apple, Plumleaf crab apple40
Malus prunifolia rinkiiChinese Apple30
Malus pumilaParadise Apple, Common Apple, Apple Tree32
Malus pumila nervosaCrab Apple30
Malus pumila paradisiacaParadise Apple30
Malus sargentiiSargent's apple, Sargent Crabapple20
Malus sieversii 30
Malus sikkimensis 20
Malus spectabilisChinese Flowering Apple, Asiatic apple30


Print Friendly and PDF

Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Larry B. Blumatte   Sun May 1 21:21:52 2005

Hello, Could you tell me what Mail Order Nursery in the United States sells the Alma Crabapple? I planted one in 1989 and it was beautiful. Then in 1996 when I had a house built the construction trucks kept running it over so I had it taken down. Now I can't remember which nursery I bought it from. Thank you for any help you can give.

John Fielding   Sun Apr 2 2006

From an old saying The crab of the wood Is sauce very good For the crab of the sea

Bleaklowjohn Photos of countryside and moorland

Myson Effa   Sun Nov 23 2008

PLANTS profile AKA: Dougalsi, rivularis, & milflori, USDA referred to the pyrus designation as erroneous w/ the sic post script. This yr, '08 the sic has disappeared from USDA plant profiles, Modern dwarf pears & semi dwarf pears r grafted on to quince root stock & thus have a limited range. My grandparents & great grandparents grew pears on " local crab apple" stock for almost a century in Kelowna & Osoyoos in the Okanagan, BC, Canada w/ little problem. The modern pears kept dying out.. Being pyrus this plant can host pear, apple, quince, & medlar grafts w/ amazing freeze, flood, drought, & forest fire resistance. Historical note: 1 of the 1st Indian wars was fought over an Amerind planted orchard @ the mouth of the Alberni Canal (fjord) on the SW coast of Vancouver Is.

Per Hansen   Sat Jan 9 2010

You spell Scandinavia incorrectly as Scandanavia throughout your site.

QR Code

What's this?

This is a QR code (short for Quick Response) which gives fast-track access to our website pages. QR Codes are barcodes that can be read by mobile phone (smartphone) cameras. This QR Code is unique to this page. All plant pages have their own unique code. For more information about QR Codes click here.

1. Copy and print the QR code to a plant label, poster, book, website, magazines, newspaper etc and even t-shirts.

2. Smartphone users scan the QR Code which automatically takes them to the webpage the QR Code came from.

3. Smartphone users quickly have information on a plant directly for the pfaf.org website on their phone.

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at admin@pfaf.org. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Malus sylvestris  
All the information contained in these pages is Copyright (C) Plants For A Future, 1996-2012.
Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567,
Web Design & Management
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Some information cannot be used for commercial reasons or be modified (but some can). Please view the copyright link for more information.